This report originally appeared on the Satellite Sentinel Project.
Confirming reports that first emerged from local sources and Radio Dabanga, new Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) imagery from March 26, 2014 shows more than 400 huts, tents, and temporary shelters burned by Sudanese government-backed Janjaweed forces in Khor Abeche, at a South Darfur camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) located near a peacekeeping base. DigitalGlobe Intelligence Solutions (DGIS) image analysis finds that most of the destruction affected the structures adjacent to the African Union – United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) peacekeeping compound, which itself was not damaged.
The temporary shelters adjacent to the UNAMID camp and a portion of Khor Abeche village suffered significant fire damage, as observed on DigitalGlobe imagery dated March 26, 2014. DGIS analysis estimates over 400 huts, tents, or shelters are destroyed in the areas closest to the UNAMID camp, including groupings of residences in “family unit” configurations. No damage was found to the UNAMID compound.
UNAMID has said it is protecting thousands of displaced civilians at several bases, including Khor Abeche, and the SSP image shows a large group of people towards the top middle area inside the UNAMID compound.
A UNAMID spokesman tells SSP that peacekeepers and IDPs at Khor Abeche were first alerted of a possible attack to the camp on March 21. The population of the camp, about 3,000 people, took refuge at the UNAMID's base. The following day, while the peacekeepers protected those within the compound, about 300 heavily armed men set fire to the nearby IDP camp.
Eyewitnesses to the attack on Khor Abeche camp say the assailants burned to death a sheikh, injured many residents, kidnapped local leaders, and looted property and livestock while also destroying water wells, homes, and a hospital.
Despite praise UNAMID has received for its efforts from the African Union, the deaths and injuries raise critical questions about the will and capacity of the peacekeeping force to deter such attacks and implement its civilian protection mandate outside its compound.
News reports indicate that Sudanese government-supported Rapid Support Forces (RSF), also called the Rapid Response Forces (RRF) led the attack on Khor Abeche. The group of 6,000 fighters is attacking civilians and torching homes throughout the area. In North Darfur’s mountainous East Jebel Marra area, some areas have been both bombed and burned as Janjaweed ground attacks and Sudan Air Force (SAF) attacks escalate.
SAF air strikes and Janjaweed attacks have exacerbated conditions for 215,000 people who are newly displaced across Darfur since the beginning of the year, including almost 68,000 who are displaced in South Darfur’s violence. Humanitarian organizations estimate that some 59,000 people are displaced from South Darfur’s Um Gunya area, in the wake of clashes between the RSF and the rebel Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) group.
Civilians throughout areas beyond South Darfur are also fleeing waves of violence, including infighting among rebel forces, political power struggles, and intercommunal clashes in North Darfur.
Without holding the government of Sudan responsible for the atrocities committed by the Janjaweed militia, the U.S. Department of State condemned the attack in Khor Abeche and expressed concern at the escalating violence committed by Sudanese government-backed forces and rebel groups.